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Halep and Ostapenko chase glory

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Originally published on 10/06/17 00:00

Halep and Ostapenko have picked the perfect occasion to play their first match together – the 2017 women’s French Open singles final.

This is familiar territory for Halep, the tournament favourite from the outset, as she was defeated by Maria Sharapova in the 2014 final. The Romanian was expected to build on her breakthrough run in Paris three years ago but she has been on the periphery at Grand Slams until now.

Ostapenko’s run to the final has been remarkable. The 20-year-old is the first unseeded player to reach the championship match at Roland Garros since Mima Jausovec in 1983, and she is looking to become the first Latvian, male or female, to capture major silverware.

Keys to the match

Simona Halep (ROU) [3]

The 25-year-old was expected to step up in the absence of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka – and she has responded. Not only is the Romanian looking to capture her maiden Grand Slam title, but she is also just one victory away from becoming the new world No.1.

Halep, under the tutelage of renowned coach Darren Cahill, will be well versed on the strengths and weaknesses of her opponent – and she will almost certainly target Ostapenko’s vulnerable second serve.

The Latvian’s second delivery tends to lacks pace and depth. Halep returned excellently against the big-serving Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals, and she will look to do the same against Ostapenko.

Halep’s movement and anticipation on the red dirt is unrivalled. She scurries and scampers around the court at great speed and she can frustrate opponents with her retrieval skills.

The attack-minded Ostapenko will look to seize the initiative with her heavy groundstrokes and the Romanian will hope to use her defensive capabilities to extract errors from her younger opponent.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

The Latvian, who will break the top 20 in the rankings for the first time on Monday, is the youngest finalist at Roland Garros since Ana Ivanovic in 2007.

Ostapenko has hit 245 winners en route to the championship match and her fearless attitude has earned her the respect of the locals. She is a fiery character with an explosive game however it is vital that she doesn't let her temper ruin her big day.

Against an excellent retriever like the Romanian, the 20-year-old must accept that many of her power shots will be returned with interest. Ostapenko will be the aggressor in the majority of the baseline exchanges so she should enter the Philippe Chatrier Court with the belief that the match is on her racket.

Prediction: Halep in two

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